News

Are the Repo Men Still Coming for Spiral Jetty?

by Alexander Cavaluzzo on August 6, 2011

A beautiful image of "Spiral Jetty," Robert Smithson's greatest earthwork by Flickr user SP Hansen (via flickr.com/55465670@N02

When we last left you in this saga, the Utah Department of Natural Resources had accused Dia Art Foundation of not renewing their lease on Robert Smithson’s iconic work of land art “Spiral Jetty” (1970). As it stood then, the state appeared to be taking a backseat approach to the problem, not immediately putting the land (art) up for auction. But now it seems things have complicated a bit.

Before we continue, I would suggest you read this post on Etsy (of all places) positing who exactly owns Spiral Jetty. It should hopefully take care of some of the more philosophical questions on the matter, while in this post we’ll stick solely to reporting news (and maybe a snarky comment or two).

Activist André Barclay (not the porn star … we think … ahem NSFW) created a petition on July 13, 2011 entitled “Save Spiral Jetty,” where he expressed his worry over the future of Smithson’s work. Since the conflict hadn’t been resolved, he offered up several solutions to protect the work from destruction, from having it declared a Utah National Park, or asking President Obama to make it a National Landmark.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Utah and New York officials met to discuss the future of “Spiral Jetty” on July 21, 2011. Unfortunately it does not seem as though the lease will just be peaceably renewed, now, but rather the agreement between the two associations will be restructured. In the article it suggested that the any deal would include a “stewardship” role for a local arts group, possibly the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.

UMFA has confirmed that they have been approached by both UDNR and Dia to extend help on reaching a new agreement. Their Director, Gretchen Dietrich (not Marlene’s great-granddaughter, sadly) said:

Generally, people agree it would be great for the Dia Foundation to have a local cooperating cultural partner … We are in talks with Dia and the DNR to see if UMFA is the right entity. It makes sense because we are the state’s art museum. We care very deeply about Spiral Jetty and would do anything for its preservation.

Despite what Utah says, Dia still denies that they were late on renewing their lease, chalking the confusion up to the fact that their staff was working with former state Sovereign Lands coordinator Dave Grierson on the matter, who died in 2010. We’ll still have to wait and see what happens, as an agreement has yet to be reached as of the publication of this post.

All is not lost, though. Even if in some freak development the Spiral Jetty is washed away for a new Mormon Church, the land art is now preserved on video in the James Franco exhibition “Three’s Company: The Drama.”

Of course, the only person we haven’t heard from on the matter is the subject of the debate herself, Spiral Jetty. What does she think of the matter? Well, according to Jen Graves, Spiral Jetty disappeared last night, completely submerged under the Great Salt Lake. Was it too much stress, or is she simply trying to avoid the press?

  • Subscribe to the Hyperallergic email newsletter!

Hyperallergic welcomes comments and a lively discussion, but comments are moderated after being posted. For more details please read our comment policy.

Previous post:

Next post: